Study Guide

Johnny Got His Gun Chapter 13

By Dalton Trumbo

Chapter 13

  • Two more years pass by. The most momentous events in Joe's life are a nurse falling one night in his room, and then being moved to a new room a year later. There, he recalculates his position and the positions of the door and the furniture. His life is full of thrills, that Joe.
  • In the fourth year, Joe tries to remember the books and stories of the Bible and worries that in his boredom he has miscalculated time.
  • One day, the nurse gives him a fresh change of linen two days in a row. This sends Joe all into a tizzy, and he wonders what it means because it's never happened before.
  • Joe then notices that the nurse is spraying him with something cool and folding the covers back to his throat. She's never done either of these things before, either.
  • Joe is given a new mask that covers his throat, he's tucked back under the bedcovers, and his hair is carefully combed.
  • As Joe revels in this new clean feeling, he feels the vibrations of four or five people coming into the room and standing around him.
  • Joe's first thought is whether it that it might be his mother and sisters and Kareen... but then he's ashamed and hopes that it isn't, because he doesn't want them to see him in his current state. He jerks his head away from his visitors, dislodging the mask. He starts to thrash back and forth.
  • Joe then feels the hand of a man on his forehead, and this stills him. He feels the covers being folded back from his throat.
  • Joe guesses that these people are doctors and that he is being marveled at as a medical wonder. He imagines what the doctors are saying to one another, about what a good job they did on him and giving out his teeth as souvenirs. Joe has a tendency to be morbid when he's angry.
  • Then Joe feels something pinching the part of his nightshirt over his breast. It falls back weighted down with something. He tries to reach for it with his hand before realizing that he can't. Then he feels someone with a moustache kiss his temples.
  • Joe realizes that he's been decorated with a medal. He also thinks he might be in France, because kissing is what French generals do (though, he reasons, it's also true he has no hands to shake, so he's not sure).
  • Joe feels himself getting angry. He thinks of how few generals get killed in war. He also wonders how men with all of their faculties intact can come in and pin a medal on someone who actually suffered and feel self-important doing it.
  • Joe wants the generals to see him as he is and tries to completely dislodge the mask. He starts rocking back and forth, and he even starts to make a noise that he imagines must sound like the grunting of a pig.
  • Joe feels the footsteps of the men leaving. He thinks about their vibrations and realizes that he could create his own vibrations to communicate.
  • Joe remembers having a wireless set when he was a kid; he learned Morse code for it. He raises his head and lets it fall back down, and taps out the code for SOS.
  • The nurse comes into his room and Joe can feel her standing there trying to figure out what he wants.
  • The nurse tries putting her hand on his forehead in order to soothe Joe, but he keeps tapping. Then he feels her hand putting pressure on him to make him stop tapping, and he taps harder. He keeps it up until he is exhausted.

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